Sustainability will boost the economy

Spring is a season of renewal and from my window, as I write these words, I can see new leaves and flowers.

Unfortunately for humanity, all is not as it seems according to a report produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The global assessment summary for policy makers, which it released on the 7th May, warns of unprecedented species extinction rates that are linked to our economic activities. The growing amount of science based data questioning the way that we obtain the energy people use for sustaining the lifestyle pursued in what are considered to be the wealthier nations and aspired to by others has led to some, who want this issue to be addressed, taking direct political action to encourage policymakers to make changes.

Whether you believe that this is the way to encourage the governments of this world to restructure their economies or not, this certainly is being presented as a choice between future life or death and therefore should be considered an urgent matter. Nonetheless, here in Britain it is the result of the referendum held in 2016 about our membership of the European Union that remains the principal concern of our government and parliament. Other nations and states also have local issues that seem to take precedence over any serious consideration of the sustainability of our current behaviour and devising alternative plans. One oft repeated claim that is used to delay decision making is that sustainability will damage ‘the economy’.

As someone who has academic and practical knowledge of economic and sustainable development, I see this argument as misleading. The problem is how to explain this to people who have not got an appropriate scientific background and have genuine concerns about the future wellbeing of themselves and their loved ones. This website is one of the tools I use.

In March I was fortunate to attend a talk given by a physicist who has specialised in thermodynamics and had used his knowledge to make his own calculations about the natural energy available to humans and all life on earth. He concluded that the problem we have created for ourselves is due to using fossil fuels, which moves energy from the crust and cause climate change. However, he also calculated that there should be no difficulty relying on renewable energy sources instead because we are only using a small fraction of the energy available to us. He also explained why using hydrogen as the prime energy source for transport is not only much more efficient than the fossil fuels that we currently use but also eliminated the short-term pollution and longer-term climate change problems.

Having been responsible for calculating National Income statistics in the past, I can say with confidence that investment in the economy to make the switch towards renewables combined with hydrogen usage and recycling should create employment and will boost the economy monetarily, not diminish it, as well as making it more sustainable.

In recent months, I have been refreshing my understanding of physics and this will lead to some of the papers on this website being updated over time, hopefully to make it easier for readers to make an informed choice about actions they can take. In the meanwhile, I have added three new papers: ‘How can you be here when you are everywhere?’; ‘A Grace’; and ‘The Parable of the Treasure Chest’. I hope you enjoy reading them.

Paul Newman

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A Revolutionary Resolution

The start of a new calendar year is traditionally considered a good time to take stock and make plans for the future and people are encouraged to make ‘a new year’s resolution’. The joke is often made about how quickly these good intentions give way to a resumption of past behaviour, which makes people feel even worse! However, as I write this, we have just had ‘Blue Monday’, which is supposed to be the most depressing day in the calendar year. Therefore, I want to suggest how to make a positive change, or new resolution, any time of the year and under any circumstances.

The first thing to remember is that the universe is good at change. It is happening where ever you look, on this planet and everywhere beyond. For example, in our garden, despite the cold weather we are currently experiencing, bulbs can be seen pushing through the soil and the first snowdrops are preparing to open, as the picture above illustrates. This is because energy is constantly changing form.

Some scientists who have studied quantum physics have suggested that it looks as if the world we know is made of ‘mind-stuff’; energy that takes on the form that the observer is measuring. Perhaps thought is more powerful than we have imagined? Sometimes, even a passing thought can develop into an interesting idea and that can become a new goal, which may lead to a small but significant improvement or even become a life-changing shift in direction.

So often, in my experience, good ideas founder because the thinker cannot see how to take the first step or is apprehensive about the consequences, especially failure! The simple solution is to ask for help. This may take the form of a request to another person or group or organisation. It can also be a plea for inspiration and fulfilment to the ‘mind-stuff’ itself, which some of us call prayer.

Thus, my revolutionary proposal, which I am asking you, the reader of this post, to consider employing in this year and beyond, can be reduced to an easily remembered formula in mathematical style (as beloved by a certain type of self-help literature):

R=C+T+G+A

Where R=Resolution; C= Change; T=Thought; G=Goal; and A=Ask.

If you want time to consider this, why don’t you browse around this web site using the menu bar above? If you want to let me know what you think, why don’t you use the email link provided? Whatever you decide to do, I hope this year is good for you.

Paul Newman

January 2019

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What just happened?

The winter solstice, Christmas and other seasonal celebrations are all approaching, and pundits of all types are, no doubt, composing lofty judgements about 2017. Meanwhile, I suspect I am not the only person left confused by, frustrated with and even annoyed at the many events contained within the year that is ending.

Many people in this world continue to suffer because of local economic, political and religious conflicts, some made worse by international rivalries and competing ideologies. Those with little or nothing have been exploited for personal gain and gratification, often by people to whom they have turned for help. Victims have been ignored or blamed for the situation they were forced to experience. Accidents and natural disasters have been made more acute by lack of governmental planning or inadequate infrastructure. The systems and resources of this world continue to be either ignored or misused while politicians and business leaders repeat phrases such as: “lessons will be learnt” and “these things will not be allowed to happen again” but without evidence that this is anything other than a way of deflecting criticism.

It is perhaps understandable that some claim life is an accident that tends to bring more misery than happiness. Nonetheless, during the year there have been people who have responded in an extraordinary way to help when faced by the challenges created by the events that have caused death, injury, bereavement and distress. Meanwhile, yet others have carried on showing qualities such as service, compassion and goodness and not just to those who are easy to love or reward them in return.

To offer something positive, I have added to this web site the paper: ‘Who am I and why am I here?’, which is based on my own experience but perhaps more importantly that of people giving evidence to an enquiry conducted for the British National Health Service. I hope that some visitors will also look at ‘Money and Sustainability’ to remind themselves that money is a tool that can be used to encourage beneficial development and enrich the lives of many and not just a few lucky or greedy people.

I hope you enjoy these suggestions and the most recent pictures, showing above, and can step into 2018 in a spirit of hope and expectation of better things to come. Maybe you will have been cheered by an unexpected welcome to a seasonal event or will have, perhaps without your knowledge, lifted the spirits of a stranger. I wish you love and peace for the end of this year and the new one to come.

Paul Newman

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Economic Diagnosis for the present climate

It is with great pleasure that I have been able to add to this web site a newly produced paper entitled: The Brian and Linda Eaton Economic Assessment Papers: Review Winter/Spring 2017, which has been produced by my former colleague and friend, Brian Eaton, whose career as a professional economist has earned him respect and a dedicated following, especially among companies and policy makers. In this paper, Brian has considered significant changes in the world and their potential effect on the global economy and then distilled this to a local perspective that can help make it understandable to interested readers as well as fellow professionals. By starting from profound philosophical foundations and relating current events and practices to economic theory he has produced a work that transcends the typically modest title that suggests a short-term regional roundup. This work, in my opinion, is for the long-term and is worth careful study. I was particularly interested in his consideration of what and how economic activity is measured, which provides greater depth and background to the ideas that I introduced on to this web site in my paper: Accounting for sustainability.

The reason why Brian has dedicated his work to the memory of his late wife, Linda is explained, in the first section, by the reference to the successful award that he set up to continue her aims and ambitions. It has gained an additional relevance because of the much needed current interest in the problems faced by those coping with mental illness.

I hope visitors to this site will find this paper of use and recommend it to others.

If you are visiting this web site for the first time, you might find it useful to view the ‘Welcome‘ page and follow the menu options above, both of the pages introducing the Sustain and Eternal sections have been recently revised.

Paul Newman
May 2017

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Prejudice or Science & Spirituality

Holding a prejudice can give a sense of certainty, whereas science is about acknowledging uncertainty and trying to build a picture of the world that is always imperfect because there is always the possibility that it can be improved. The scientific method only allows theories to be disproved, given the data available at the time a test is carried out. For some people this is disquieting and they would rather cling to their personal explanation of events, even when the evidence for their beliefs can be tested and shown to be false or capable of alternative explanations.

Statistics is a tool of the scientific method and the reason why I enjoy the subject is because of the excitement of exploration, which makes it possible to build a picture of the unknown. But before you can apply any statistical technique you have got to decide what data you will collect and, very importantly, what can be measured. In the paper ‘Planning Research’, I have set out a series of steps that I would recommend to help develop a programme to find and distribute information based on my own experience and a personal process of trial and error.

I also have personal experience of the process of spiritual enquiry. This is not, as some believe, something that is in opposition to scientific study. In both cases you have to start by acknowledging that there is knowledge that you do not already know. Spiritual enquiry looks inside, rather than using external observation. However, this process of internal questioning can be the starting point for understanding that is enhanced by scientific research. It has also been the source of some of the most illuminating ideas in philosophy and the basis for religious discourse.

Both science and spirituality can be pleasurable but spirituality can take you into a different dimension of experience. The writings that can be found in the Sustain and Eternal menus, above, derive from these two schools of understanding.

Unfortunately, ideas taken out of context or misunderstood can be the basis of prejudice and it is for this reason that some of the worst behaviour humanity has perpetrated has been justified with reference to either scientific or spiritual writings.

As I write these words, at the end of November, with the coldness of winter already in evidence it is hard to remember that we are only four weeks away from what is always considered a joyful celebration of light and joy to all mankind. This because it feels as if the western hemisphere is slipping into a state where tolerance and liberal thinking is mistrusted and rejected in favour of authoritarian and simplistic solutions. Even to suggest that we could be making a mistake or that we may cause harm to ourselves in the future because of our actions can bring down criticism rather than provoke reasoned discussion. The task of pursuing sustainability within the limits of our current knowledge looks as if it could become a casualty of the current mood in politics. All I can hope is that the saying ‘it always seems darkest before the dawn’ can prove right and that you, my reader, will enjoy the festive season.

Paul Newman

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Unsustainable change

So much has happened in the last couple of months (since I posted the message Spring Promise) that I have found it difficult to know how to comment. For a start, the political upheaval in the United Kingdom since the result of the referendum on our membership of the European Union has seen two party leaders depart and another under challenge. This is interesting because so many of those who said they voted to leave also claimed that they were seeking to slow down or even prevent changes that they blamed on European ‘interference’.

But Britain is not the only country experiencing a drift towards insularity and protests against what are seen as political elites who, it is claimed, are out of touch with the public mood. It seems to me that no individual leader or political party can possibly meet the disparate demands expressed so publicly via various streams of media, which have become so much more accessible since the advent of the internet.

It was with great pleasure that I saw that the opening of the Olympic Games in Rio featured the need for our environment to be cared for. If we all, as the collective human race, do not realise and embrace this message as a basis for progress any other political change, however popular it appears, will prove to be unsustainable. This is the reason I felt that I had to offer a potential new economic strategy in the paper ‘Accounting for sustainability’ to add to the other ideas contained within the pages on sustainability.

To follow other topics contained in this site please use the menus above.

Paul Newman

August 2016

 

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Spring Promise

Here in Britain the weather has changed and suddenly it seems as if spring has really arrived and we can look forward to the prospect of summer warmth. As a result, I have changed the pictures that appear above the text to something brighter and included in these image a couple taken by my nine year old grandson in our garden.

Politics, on the other hand, seems to be dominated by the insular concerns of the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. I wish that both sides of the argument, and particularly those who want us to leave, would set out their macro-economic strategy to show how our relations with the whole global economy will either be changed or maintained by the decision they want us to take.

My own ideas about a strategy that puts sustainability at the forefront of future development are set out on the page on this web site entitled Accounting for sustainability.

If you would like to know more about the purpose of the Renewable Way, please have a look at the Welcome page or just browse, using the menu options given above.

Paul Newman

May 2016

 

 

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Seasonal Greetings

Realising potential

May I wish everyone who reads this message good wishes for 2016. It seems appropriate this New Year to depart from the usual welcome (but use the link if you want to skip these comments) until Candlemas because that date is not only traditionally considered the middle of winter in Britain and northern Europe but will also be the day I celebrate my seventieth birthday.

Especially at this time I do not wish to sound too self-indulgent because I am aware that there are people in several parts of the world, including places not far away that I once used to visit regularly, who are struggling to cope with the damage done by extremes of weather. For people who have lost their home, the prospects for the new year must seem anything but good.

One of the themes that I seek to highlight in the papers that can be found listed in ‘Sustain‘ is that using money as the principal economic measuring tool does not reveal the actions that need to be taken to achieve sustainability. Watching the way we clean up after a flood illustrates the problem. Damaged goods are described as being piled up awaiting disposal, as if that has no impact on the environment we live in. Pumps and dehumidifiers are used to drain and dry water soaked premises, regardless of the energy they use. However, perhaps the most distorted outcome is that the monetary value of replacement and repair actual appears to provide a positive increase to the National Income because the cost of the damage is not factored into calculations. The truth understood by everyone affected is that the climate can and does cause economic disruption and personal hardship and mistakes made in the immediate aftermath can increase the chance of it happening again. Therefore, we need new measuring tools that can help us to make better and more appropriate decisions, as I say in ‘Accounting for sustainability‘.

I am currently reading ‘Infinite Potential’, by Lothar Schafer, which is sub-titled ‘What Quantum Physics reveals about how we should live’. This book explains what science has discovered when we look at the sub-atomic world that everything is made of. It is a curious fact that when we look at the ‘Big Picture‘, important as that is in helping us construct our goals, we can get an illusion of precision and solidity, whereas the surprising truth is that we actually live in a world of probability and potential. In some ways scientific discovery is perhaps taking us closer to a better understanding of the eternal world of the spirit.

Thus my wish for us all is that we can be brave and open enough to realise our potential.

Paul Newman
January 2016

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The Challenge of COP21 Paris

‘On Saturday 12 December, 2015, twenty nine days after the tragedy of the terrorist attacks in the same City, it seems that the United Nations has reason to celebrate the success of the event known as COP21, held in Paris. This is because a deal that effectively involved all the nations of the world has been reached that some are claiming is the end of the fossil fuel era.

That 195 countries have been able to agree to four common goals is an achievement that seemed unlikely, given the history of previous meetings in this series. For those of us who remember how things started within the United Nations mechanism, first with the Brundtland Report in 1987 and then the first Earth Summit held at Rio in 1992, the current situation is most welcome.

However, it will be the next phase of the work: implementation; that is likely to present a greater challenge. As my own contribution, I have published three more pages on this web site. ‘Can sustainability be measured?’ is an academic paper, I produced in 1998, which is a topic that is still relevant to the current situation although the references are now dated. I suspect that much data collection and analysis will need to be undertaken to find the technical and social means to implement the COP21 agreement and so I offer some practical steps that I have found useful when ‘Planning research’. Finally, I have included ‘Accounting for sustainability’, a paper that I hope will evolve over time, which currently includes my initial thoughts on a way to measure the resources used by organisations in the private, voluntary and government sectors that might help them know whether the actions they are taking are leading towards the achievement of the outcomes signed up to in COP21.

Paul Newman
December 2015

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A message for Paris

Paris has been in the news and the thoughts of many across the world because of the events on Friday 13th November 2015 when death and injury blighted the lives of people seeking an enjoyable evening out or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. From November 30 to December 11, 2015 Paris is also the venue of the latest in a long series of meetings organised by the United Nations to discuss Climate Change.

I hope that this may be the moment when politicians from all participating countries come to realise that achieving sustainable development that limits damage to the climate, in particular, and the environment we rely on as a species, in general, is economically and socially necessary. If so, perhaps they will also realise that money is just a tool that Governments use (and of course need to maintain) and that the cost of sustainability is like the cost of security (which should be in their minds as the venue is Paris) and is more than desirable and worth being properly resourced.

Paul Newman
28 November 2015

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